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Home arrow Geography arrow Climate Change Adaptation in Pacific Countries: Fostering Resilience and Improving the Quality of Life



The objectives of this research paper were as follows:

1. To illustrate the importance of gender responsive CCA

C. Aipira (H) • A. Kidd • K. Morioka

UN Women Pacific, Level 3 Kadavu House, Victoria Parade, Suva, Fiji Islands e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

A. Kidd

e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it © Springer International Publishing AG 2017

W. Leal Filho (ed.), Climate Change Adaptation in Pacific Countries, Climate Change Management, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-50094-2_13

Fig. 13.1 Research framework

  • 2. To evaluate regional capacity for gender responsive climate change action through current status of policy, institutional arrangements, implementation and practice, knowledge and women’s participation
  • 3. To recommend measures for meaningful incorporation of gender equality in future CCA policy, planning, implementation and monitoring.


The Pacific region is highly vulnerable to climate change. Flooding, drought, tropical cyclones, rising sea level, salinisation and extreme heat are common. Over the past three years, the Pacific region has experienced seven major climate-related disasters.[1] The region combines high exposure to frequent and damaging natural hazards with low capacity to manage the resulting risks. As a result, the 2014 World Risk Report identified Vanuatu, Tonga, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea in the top 15 most at-risk countries in the world based on their exposure to natural hazards and societal vulnerability (UNU and Alliance Development Works 2014).

Numerous studies indicate that the effects of climate change are not gender-neutral (Enarson and Fordham 2001; Enarson 2000; Peterson 1997). Women are disproportionately affected due to pre-existing inequalities.

Firstly, women and girls are at a higher risk of physical impacts of disasters and extreme climatic events. Such risks include higher fatalities (Table 13.1) and injuries among women and girls. Women also suffer secondary impacts due to pre-existing and incredibly high rates of gender-based violence (GBV) in the Pacific, which increase post-disaster and in times of stress. After two cyclones hit Vanuatu in 2011, the Vanuatu Women’s Centre in Tanna recorded a 300% increase in reported violence cases (Kilsby et al. 2012; Asian Development Bank 2014).

Secondly, women, unlike men, have a higher dependence on natural resources. The majority of women in the Pacific work in agriculture, often at subsistence level which increases their exposure to climate change. In Tuvalu women undertake 78% of subsistence agriculture (ILO 2009). In Papua New Guinea, it’s 80% (Morioka 2012). Because this is also the sector hardest hit by climate change, women’s resilience is limited. As agriculture becomes less productive and water and fuel harder to find, women must spend more time on subsistence production and household activities, rather than activities that are leisure- or income-related. This ‘time poverty’, together with unequal access to resources, means women are less able to adapt to and cope with climate change, and are unable to develop a reliable and independent source of income. For example, following the devastating tropical cyclone Pam in Vanuatu in 2015, women spent long hours foraging for food in order to provide for their families and voluntarily reduced their own food intake to stretch resources as far as possible. Cyclone Ian in Tonga in 2014 destroyed the pandanus tree crop. The weaving of mats and baskets from pandanus leaves is an integral part of women’s culture in the Pacific and a source of income. Because it takes up to two years for leaves to grow long enough for harvesting, women’s ability to generate income was affected long after the cyclone (Kingdom of Tonga 2014).

Despite these inequalities, women also play an important role in climate change adaptation. For example, Pacific women can use traditional knowledge to preserve

Table 13.1 Female mortality in Asia-Pacific disasters



Female mortality (%)


Cyclone 0B2/Bangladesh



Tsunami/Aceh Indonesia



Tsunami/Tamil Nadu Indonesia



Cyclone Nargis/Myanmar



Tsunami/Samoa, Tonga



Flash floods/Solomon Islands



Cyclone Winston


*Women/children and store food and seeds ahead of approaching storms, floods or drought, which can carry their families through the recovery months. They hold critical knowledge on where or how to find clean water, which crops to grow in a flood or a drought season and how to survive through climate extremes. They also play a pivotal role in managing household finances and investing their savings in education, health, livelihood and other activities that assist their families to adapt and respond to climate effects (Morioka 2012).

As the above examples show, the gender implications of climate change are significant. Such considerations must be integrated in the design of disaster risk reduction (DRR) and CCA measures, with particular attention to the linkages between climate-related disasters, sustainable development and women’s inequality (Nellemann et al. 2011). Recent global agreements are finally recognising these linkages. The Paris Agreement on Climate Change, set out at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP21) calls for a “country-driven, gender-responsive, participatory and fully transparent approach to foster climate resilience and reduce vulnerability”. Similarly, the Sendai Global Framework for DRR calls for “a gender, age, disability and cultural perspective in all policies and practices; and emphasises that “women and their participation are critical to effectively managing disaster risk and ... implementing gender-sensitive disaster risk reduction policies, plans and programmes”. The priorities of the Sendai Framework and the outcomes of COP 21 offer new impetus to substantively start tackling the gender dimensions of climate change.

  • [1] Cyclone Evan: Samoa and Fiji 2013, Cyclone Lusi: Vanuatu 2014, Cyclone Ian: Tonga 2014;flash flooding: Solomon Islands 2014; Cyclone Pam: Vanuatu and Tuvalu 2015, Cyclone Maysak:Federated States of Micronesia 2015; Cyclone Winston: Tonga and Fiji 2016.
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